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Panthers fall in playoff opener

For the second time this season, Pequot Lakes' defense held the Park Rapids football team scoreless in the second half as the Patriots rallied for a win.

For the second time this season, Pequot Lakes' defense held the Park Rapids football team scoreless in the second half as the Patriots rallied for a win.

During the regular season, Park Rapids held a 21-0 lead at halftime before the Patriots rallied for a 28-21 victory.

In the rematch in the first round of the Section 8AAA playoffs, Pequot Lakes shut out the Panthers over the final three quarters as the Patriots rallied from a 7-0 halftime deficit for a 13-7 victory at Pequot Lakes.

The Panthers overcame a fumble on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead after the first quarter.

Justin Peterson capped a 15-play, 72-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:10 remaining in the opening period. Tucker Coborn's kick gave the No. 5-seeded Panthers a 7-0 lead.

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A 6-yard run by Dylan Walsh, a 9-yard carry by Jake Grimes and a 15-yard run by Coborn started the drive. Peterson picked up 4 yards on fourth-and-2 at the 34 and Walsh hit Kevin Vaadeland for a 16-yard gain on fourth-and-4 at the 25. After two penalties for illegal motion brought the ball back to the 18, a 17-yard pass from Walsh to John Drury set up Peterson's touchdown plunge on fourth-and-goal. That scoring drive consumed 7:22 off the clock.

Park Rapids' defense held the Patriots on fourth-and-3 at the Panthers' 39 and a 20-yard pass from Walsh to Peterson gave the Panthers a first down at the Pequot Lakes 37. But a holding penalty, sack and interception ended that drive.

Both teams exchanged punts the rest of the half as Pequot Lakes managed only three first downs and 57 yards in offense in the first half.

The second half was a different story as the Patriots finished off two scoring drives while the Panthers lost possession on downs on two trips inside Pequot Lakes' 30.

After each team exchanged punts to open the second half, Pequot Lakes put together a seven-play, 66-yard drive to tie the game. A 12-yard run by Matt Michaelson and 19-yard pass from Jeff Redmond to Nic Johnsen set up a 20-yard connection from Redmond to Johnsen. Nic Harrison's kick made it 7-7 with 1:56 to play in the third quarter.

Park Rapids used Coborn's kickoff return to the 45, five carries by Peterson for 16 yards, a 2-yard run by Walsh on fourth-and-1 and a 5-yard gain by Vaadeland to reach the Pequot Lakes 28. That drive stalled at the 26.

The Patriots took over and marched 74 yards in seven plays to take the lead. Cody Chambers rushed twice for 20 yards and Michaelson had a 7-yard run as Pequot Lakes drove to the Park Rapids 38. Michaelson, who rushed 21 times for 128 yards, then broke free for a 38-yard TD run as the Patriots led 13-7 with 6:02 to play.

A 23-yard run by Walsh and a 10-yard carry by Coborn gave the Panthers a first down at the Pequot Lakes 30. The Patriots' defense held and Pequot Lakes regained possession at the 25 with 3:47 remaining.

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Redmond's 9-yard run on third-and-7 and Michaelson's 5-yard gain on third-and-3 helped Pequot Lakes run out the clock to preserve the win, handing the Panthers their fifth loss in a row.

"The kids came to play and they played four quarters," said Park Rapids head coach Tom Ahrendt. "Our defense played really well, especially in the first half when we shut them down. Offensively we just couldn't punch it in. The difference was we made some mental mistakes and gave up a couple big plays. Overall I thought we played pretty well."

The loss ended Park Rapids' season at 3-6 while Pequot Lakes improved to 5-4.

In Tuesday night's other Section 8AAA playoff games, No. 1 Thief River Falls defeated No. 8 Crookston 45-21, No. 2 Perham shut out No. 7 Roseau 24-0 and No. 3 Warroad blanked No. 6 East Grand Forks 17-0.

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